DUBAI // Residents who wish to raise money for a good cause are being urged to ensure they have permission from the authorities.
It is against the law to collect cash without approval from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department.
Doing so can result in a fine of between Dh2,000 and Dh30,000.
Officials say the rule exists to protect those giving and receiving funds – so those giving know they are donating to a genuine cause, and to ensure the money goes to those who need it. Permission is also required for collecting online.
“It is against the law applicable in Dubai,” IACAD said. “All money raised from the activity shall be confiscated and legal action shall be taken against the person or the body behind the activity.”
Confiscated money will be donated to either the intended beneficiary or a similar cause.
Individuals who are raising funds outside the UAE for a charity that is not in this country are exempt from the rule, provided they do not promote their efforts here.
But those who talk to local media for publicity must get approval. There is no charge to apply.
“Who is the audience? It is residents of the UAE and so then they need to get permission,” IACAD said.
Many residents engage in activities from marathons to motorcycle rides to raise money for charity – a reflection of the UAE’s philanthropic spirit, IACAD said.
But some are unaware of the regulations and wrongly believe that holding fundraising events in the UAE is prohibited.
“It is allowed, but with permission and under the right circumstances,” IACAD said.
Lee Ryan, a personal trainer in Dubai, recently raised money for prostate cancer by attempting to break the world record for the fastest marathon run with a 9-kilogram backpack. He was inspired by a friend who died from the disease.
Although the money was donated through a UK-based website and went to a charity based in Britain, Mr Ryan promoted his efforts in the UAE. He wanted to raise awareness of the disease in the UAE because is often stigmatised here.
He supported the need for permission to promote fundraising initiatives that are happening abroad, saying it would reassure donors in the UAE.
“People here are obviously wary about where their money is going and having it authenticated by the right channels would help,” Mr Ryan said.
“As the population grows and more people choose to do this, it would help bring them together and make it more of a community rather than, ‘I’m too scared to help out in case I get in trouble’, which is never a good thought.”
Steve Pontifex, an air traffic controller who is working with Operation Smile to raise funds for children with cleft palates who require surgery, said people had a right to be sceptical.
The Australian expatriate raised Dh60,000 during his first of four desert marathons around the world.
“I do think some people are taking advantage of the generosity that happens here, and that’s a sad thing because it ruins it for the genuine charities because people may get hesitant,” he said.
“Donors should call the charity and check if that person is actually raising funds for them. If it’s a genuine person, they’ll have the number of the charity with them.”
Wissam Al Jayyoussi is also among the many expatriates who have made it their mission to give back.
A Jordanian with Palestinian roots, Mr Al Jayyoussi rode his motorbike through 22 countries in Asia last year. This was his second such venture after a similar initiative in Europe in 2010.
The five-month trip cost him Dh220,000, which he paid out of his own pocket. But he managed to raise Dh630,000 for the Palestinian Children Relief Fund, with the money going towards the first paediatric cancer centre in the West Bank.
“People might ask, why don’t you just take that money and donate it? But as a businessman, I also think of things in terms of investment,” Mr Al Jayyoussi said. “Why donate Dh220,000 when with some effort I can provide so much more?”
There are other important factors to consider “that money can’t buy”, he added.
“By doing this, I’m going out there into the world and meeting hundreds of people, most of which are not well aware of the situation in Palestine,” he said.
“If I get people to show interest, even if it simply means clicking on an article about Palestine that they may have previously ignored, then I’ve done my job.”